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Paraprofessionals are defined as workers who assist those in a particular profession without possessing the same credentials as the professional employees in that profession. Health paraprofessionals in school settings provide many services to students and assist other health professionals in completing various job duties. Schools maintain high-quality care when employing health paraprofessionals by ensuring thorough training and appropriate supervision. Delegating routine student care to paraprofessionals frees professional health personnel to focus on more serious health-related concerns. Guidelines detailing the role of health paraprofessionals in schools ensure a clear understanding of the job duties for all personnel.
Health paraprofessionals fulfill a variety of medical and non-medical duties in the school health office. Such duties commonly include providing first aid, caring for students with acute illnesses, and scheduling basic health screenings and assessments. Student health education opportunities and providing health counseling and information for students often fall to health paraprofessionals as well. Paraprofessionals communicate with parents regarding contagious disease alerts and student injuries or illnesses during school hours. They frequently maintain records regarding immunizations, medications and sports physicals.
Health paraprofessionals spend most of their time in the health office dealing with students, staff and parents in person or over the phone. They spend time both sitting and standing, and may sometimes need to move or lift items of 40 to 60 pounds. Work generally occurs inside the school building during normal business hours. Health paraprofessionals do not typically work evening, weekend or holiday hours, though they may seek certification or required licensing during non-business hours.
Most health paraprofessional job openings require only a GED or high school diploma. Students who have not yet graduated from high school should focus on science and communication classes. Previous training in a health-related field proves valuable, as does experience in service-related occupations. Some schools require completion of a health paraprofessional class provided by the school district or local community colleges prior to beginning work. Continuing education courses may be required for health paraprofessionals in some schools or districts.
Other helpful skills include a sincere interest in, and previous knowledge of, school-age children. Also important are effective written and oral communication skills, basic computer knowledge, and good problem-solving and reasoning skills. Health paraprofessionals need the ability to perform basic mathematical operations such as may be required when dispensing medications. Organizational skills also prove helpful in carrying out record-keeping duties.
Schools typically require current certifications in first aid and CPR for health paraprofessionals. Paraprofessionals often obtain further education and training through seminars and courses on common childhood ailments such as diabetes and asthma. These courses may lead to other qualifications and certifications, such as in administering emergency medications or injections to children. Certification renewals occur at varying but regular intervals, and must be kept current so long as the health paraprofessional remains employed in the school.